Mulwray was a powerful man in the Village. His office was sandwiched between one of the finest bodegas and a karate studio for babies. Goo Jitsu. The dog paths running along the Hudson weren't too interesting to me, but they were prime real estate to a certain subset of a certain type of people, the kind who have adult children with their own record labels and executive producer credits on Sean Penn movies. They matter to me. I once read a Paz de la Huerta tweet about trickledown economics and I have had respect for the wealthy ever since.
The Department of Dog Paths was empty and locked. I could hear the babies practicing their back-to-front rolling katas through the wall. I peered into the frosted glass of Mulwray's office, next to Patrick Nagel's Topless Sailor Woman in Sunglasses there was one of those weird maps that is on paper instead of a computer. Hard to see from that distance.
Luckily, I have carried a pair of opera glasses ever since bad crowd position caused me to miss out on a flash mob Equus performance starring James Franco that upstaged Shakespeare in the Park. I dialed in the opera glasses and was able to see a string of push-pins on the map running parallel to the Hudson. It looked like the dog path the lesbians were hectoring Mulwray about.
I needed some answers and I needed them in two days, four hours and twelve minutes. But like a black light in a motel, sometimes the truth is unpleasant. Sometimes it even gets you to put the remote control in a Ziploc bag whenever you stay at a Marriot. And sometimes the truth might just get you killed.
I changed into my vintage canvas Keds boat shoes, the exact pair Kevin Kline wore in The Big Chill. I bid on a pair of Jeff Goldblum's glasses from the same flick, hoping that they would help me look smart the next time I was at the Tin House reading reception drinking free microbrew and pretending to like Kelly Link. I lost by three bucks to FlyGrrl19, and the shoes were a consolation prize. I took it hard. Bad memories. A night that ended with a Carvel cake that I purged after fake suicide attempting on my webcam by overdosing on miracle fruit tablets. At least the cake tasted good coming up.
The dog path was wide. Too wide. Unless the neighborhood residents were routinely walking St. Bernard's, the path could have been used as one of Banksy's "Fat Lanes" with room to spare. Just to be sure, I ducked just off the path and surveyed the dogs in the area-a couple of those mutts Mickey Rourke takes to movie premiers as his date and some animal that looked like a cross between a guinea pig and a marshmallow. Maybe they needed a dog path like this in the mythical Upstate, where people had German Shepherds and something called "grounds," but not here.
I noticed something shiny in the bushes and bent down to investigate. I was hoping to find someone's forgotten tablet, but what I found was a dead body, the dead body of Hollis Mulwray. His face was a smeared, bloody mess, like a sexy zombie on the November 1st walk of shame (been there). He hadn't died quickly, and he hadn't died easy. Judging by that chin lift, he hadn't died young either.
After a minute of deductive reasoning, I concluded that Mulwray was probably murdered because of the dog path. But the question, as always, was "why" with an 84-font question mark. In bold. Papyrus. Lured down here by his teenage sweetheart over a matter of missed ballet recitals? Revenge for infidelities by the Mrs? Or something else, something more sinister? Something involving a fake Mrs. Mulwray and Fairway catering.
I paid no attention to the scattering of pebbles behind me or the wet smacking sound of chewing tobacco. At least not until I felt a thick gloved hand pull me out of the bushes and throw me to the ground. Someone big-check that, two big someones, dressed all in black and sporting Luchadores masks, drew up in front of me on their Segways. Two more blocked the back exit.
"My dog just ran off," I tried. "Can you help me find him? I think he went that way."
They didn't buy it, not for a second. Someone wearing Kevin Kline boat shoes wouldn't own a dog, not when these things looked like big expensive chew toys. "No need for you to be here," the biggest one said.
"You're right. Which is why I should be going." I got to my feet, but they wouldn't open a pathway.
One of them snapped open a knife, a bone-handled blade with the wolf head carved into the end. "If you poke your beak around here again it's gonna get clipped worse than Jennifer Grey's."
I didn't want that. I nodded obsequiously, hoping they'd let me through. But they weren't finished with me-not until each one of them had spit up a big glob of tobacco juice into my vintage Keds. My Phoebe Cates fanfics flashed before my eyes. The poolside lovemaking, the Gremlins trapping us in an elevator for hours, the three-way with Drop Dead Fred. All those self-insertion moments lost in time, like chundered Fudgy in a drain.
I was betrayed by the bernio bros, the cougars, and this guy from back page I hired to keep me from jumping out a window at the DNC.
TOTAL WRECK - crazy-eyed hound is covered in cobwebs, has a vespiary on back, graffiti on side and savage thirst for boat fuel. Frankly, I'm in over my head. He's in room 115 at Motel 6, yours free. 555-2851
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